22 Aug 2019

Smart Bulb vs Smart Light Switch

Lightwave Stand: G15
Smart Bulb vs Smart Light Switch

Understanding smart lighting can be tricky. If you Google ‘Smart Lighting’ you’ll see a mix of light bulbs and light switches. Which one do you need? This blog will explain the difference between the options and point you in the right direction.

Very simply, a smart light bulb replaces the ‘normal’ light bulb you already have. As long as you have the right lamp fitting (E27, GU10, etc.) it’s a simple swap. The smart light switch does require you to interact with your electrical wiring, but this should be a straight swap too. In both cases, once the device is in place you will need to download and install the relevant app (also, depending on the system you have, there may be a hub device that connects to your internet) and add the devices. The smart light bulb approach will give you control of, well, the light bulb. The smart light switch will provide control for the lighting circuit it has been wired to.

What is a smart light bulb?

If you’re not a confident DIY-er then smart light bulbs are a good option. The install couldn’t be simpler and often no hub is required (this does depend on the system you invest in). In a matter of minutes, you can be dimming your light bulb up and down on your app or even your smart speaker. Changing the light bulb and not the switch also means you can spread your lighting control easily to lamps, helping to build your lighting scene. Smart light bulbs often come with colour changing functionality, allowing you to match a colour to your mood.

As a starting point, the smart light bulb is a great way to enter the world of smart home. It allows you to try it out without getting in too deep. However, if you're eager to dive in with a bigger, more expansive home automation system, then smart switches may be the way to go.

What is a smart light switch?

The smart light switch replaces your existing light switch. It provides a manual switching point in the same place but also control over the entire lighting circuit. Any smart light bulb user will tell you that they have, at least once, turned off the light at the switch, which cuts the power to the smart light bulb, meaning you cannot use it.

If you have a 2, 3, or 4 gang light switch, or even just a circuit that has multiple bulbs on it, this can be a much more cost-effective way of making your lights smart. Install is more difficult, you’ll need to isolate the power to the circuit and wire the device in place of your existing switch. Depending on which system you go for you may have to ensure you have either an Earth wire or a Neutral wire available at the switch (the vast majority of older houses will not have one or either of these) and that the backbox depth is deep enough to accommodate the new switch. Also, if you opt for a dimmable switch, you’ll need to ensure that the light bulbs used with the smart switch are compatible, otherwise you may find the lights flicker, don’t fully switch off, or flash.

Fortunately, Lightwave has made it really easy to get it right. The dimmers don’t need Earth or Neutral wires, so whatever wiring you have will work. Each device comes with a ‘spacer’ frame that should give you enough room in the backbox to fit the dimmer to the wall. The Smart Series dimmers also have an ‘auto-calibrate’ function at power-up, which detects what your light bulbs can handle and ensures they will work as required. As long as the light bulb is dimmable (not all LEDs are) the set up will be easy.

With smart light switches in place, you’re now empowered to broaden your control beyond simply one light at a time. A user with multiple Lightwave dimmers fitted can create lighting scenes, timers, group control, and internal ‘if-this-then-that’ actions. For example, create a scene where if you press the ‘on’ button on the dimmer for the hallway you can have it also switch on the lights in the kitchen and utility room for convenience when bringing in the weekly shop. Perhaps set the bedroom switch to turn off all the lights in the house (it’s bedtime), add a delay to give you time to settle down and get into bed. The options are there, it’s up to you what you want to do.

Whys are smart sockets also a viable option?

To expand the integration further, adding smart sockets to the system can provide useful control. These allow the user to add lamps, TV’s, speakers, hi-fi’s, etc. Why not add the power to the TV and surround sound to the ‘movie time’ lighting scene you’ve created?

Plug and Play options provide you with an easy, starting point if you’re just dipping your toes into smart home, but smart switches are the best option if you’re looking for a bigger, more expansive system that keeps switches where you want them.

View all News